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Crist puts former editorial writer on utility reg panel

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist appointed former newspaperman David Klement to fill a vacancy on the Public Service Commission.

Klement fills a vacancy created when former Commissioner Katrina McMurrian quit after Crist passed her over for reappointment.

Klement’s getting a jump on the $133,000 a year job – Crist had already picked him and Pensacola accountant and bar owner/manager Benjamin “Steve” Stevens to the panel. Their terms are set to begin Jan. 1.

Klement will be on the five-member panel in time to vote next week on whether the PSC should postpone a vote on Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposed $1.2 billion rate hike and a similar $500 million increase sought by Progress Energy Florida.

Crist asked that the panel hold off on the hearings and the votes on the rate cases until his new regulators are ensconced next year. But the PSC resumed the FPL case yesterday and is slated to finish up with it late tomorrow.

Klement spent more than four decades as a newspaperman and now heads the Institute of Public Policy and Leadership at the University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus.

Klement, 69, worked for 32 years at The Bradenton Herald.

He said earlier this month that he would bring his broad knowledge base to the panel.

“While I’m not a specialist, as many of them are, you need a generalist who understands more than how to balance the books or how to wire a house for electricity,” Klement said.

PSC Chairman Carter denies he’s “too cozy” with FPL

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 by Dara Kam

matt_carterbioIn the latest installment of intrigue at the Public Service Commission, chairman Matthew Carter issued an indignant press release today saying he takes “great offense” at reports that utility regulators are too cozy with Florida Power & Light Co. executives.

The PSC is in the midst of a FPL rate hearing in which the company is seeking a $1.3 billion rate hike implemented over two years.

The opening of the hearing was delayed after it was revealed that a PSC lobbyist and government liaison attended a party at the Palm Beach Gardens home of FPL VP Ed Tancer. Ryder Rudd, director of the commission’s Office of Strategic Analysis and Governmental Affairs, oversees staff working on two pending FPL cases – the current rate hike and a proposed $1.5 billion natural gas pipeline from the Panhandle to Palm Beach County.

An internal investigation released yesterday found that Rudd may not have broken the law by attending the party but may have violated rules of conduct prohibiting PSC staff from accepting gifts from those whose cases are under review.

Commissioner Nathan Skop, who exposed Rudd’s attendance at the party, demanded that Rudd be fired immediately. Rudd has been taken off any dockets involving FPL.

Carter weighed in today with the press release denying that commissioners and their staff are “too cozy with regulated industries, FPL in particular.”

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FPL rate hearing can go on

Monday, August 24th, 2009 by Dara Kam

A rate hearing to consider Florida Power and Light’s proposed $1.5 billion-a-year rate hike will continue, the panel overseeing the state’s utilities ruled.

The Public Service Commission hearing came to an abrupt halt earlier this morning when Commissioner Nathan Skop revealed that commission staffer Ryder Rudd had attended a Kentucky Derby party at the home of an FPL executive in Palm Beach County.

Skop asked that Rudd, who earns $92,000 a year, be removed from the case and other pending FPL dockets, including a $1.6 billion proposed natural gas pipeline.

Rudd had oversight of more than $4 billion in FPL cases pending before the panel, Skop objected. Skop also asked for Rudd’s resignation and questioned whether the current rate hike case should be dismissed.

PSC Chairman Matthew Carter ordered a recess and asked general counsel Patrick Imhof for advice on how to proceed.

Imhof told the panel that this morning’s rate hearing should continue but Rudd, who was never identified by name, should be taken off the case.

“Our recommendation is to remove the person in question from all FPL dockets pending review by the inspector general and review with the office of the general counsel,” Imhof said. But, he added: “There is no impediment to the rate case moving forward at this time.”

Carter ordered a lunch break so the commission, staff and lawyers representing the utility and consumers could have a “fresh start.”

The hearing is scheduled to begin again at 1 p.m.

PBC Kentucky Derby fete puts brakes on FPL rate hearing

Monday, August 24th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Palm Beachers love parties and a horse race is as good an excuse as any to host one for the county’s elite.

But the Kentucky Derby party at FPL vice president Ed Tancer’s Palm Beach Gardens home in the gated San Michele community has a Public Service Comission staffer in hot water.

PSC governmental affairs director Ryder Rudd and his wife attended the fete at Tancer’s home although Rudd is involved in hearings about FPL’s proposed natural gas pipeline.

PSC Commissioner Nathan Skop interrupted an FPL rate hearing this morning asking that Rudd be removed from the case and also asking for the employee to resign.

Rudd told Skop and PSC Commissioner Nancy Argenziano about the party over the weekend and tried to reach Commissioner Katrina McMurrian, the commissioners said.

McMurrian said she did not listen to his voice message left on her cell phone.

PSC Chairman Matthew Carter said Rudd did not contact him and was taken aback by Skop’s revelations.

Tancer, 46, is a vice-president and general counsel for the utility.

FPL is asking for a $1.3 billion-a-year rate hike for its 4.5 million Florida customers. The rate hearing is scheduled to last two weeks, but Skop suggested that he may ask that the case be dismissed because of Rudd’s possible misconduct.

The rate hearing is now in recess until the commissioners figure out what to do. They may hold an emergency hearing to decide on Rudd’s fate.

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